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Challenge Labs

Challenge Labs

Challenge Labs

Challenge Labs is designed to support Newcastle University students to develop interdisciplinary and collaborative research projects. Challenge labs awards funding of up to £200 to students to undertake small research projects. Students at all stages may apply for Challenge Labs funding as long as they have:

  • A good research idea
  • Support from an academic member of staff who will offer supervision and advice

Projects can be within the arts, humanities or social sciences, or between these subjects and other subject areas in the University.

Current Challenge Labs


Media Innovation Labs (MILs) for Transcultural Communication

This project aims to understand “what role can culture play in easing the transition of international students to studying in the UK?”. The project will be co-designed by the staff team and our home/international students, which encourages and supports home and international students to interact with each other in order to promote transcultural communication and ease the transition that international students experience when they study abroad for the first time through co-creating content for an app.

Students will participate in and lead four Media Innovation Labs (MILs) to develop content for an app by creating and producing different content such as games/movies/mini-videos/articles/images/handcrafts to represent their experience at both home and abroad. They will also develop their innovation and creativity skills to set up different sections and functions for the app to promote interactions as they like. At the end of the project, students will have developed a range of life, social skills and technical skills.

Quayside Sunday Market in the late 19th century - early 20th century

Newcastle’s Environmental History

The industrial revolution brought radical change to Newcastle and its environs. Newcastle and the Tyne were already home to shipbuilding, coalmining and commerce, but new technologies and the advent of the railways saw these industries transformed, bolstering the cities development and prosperity. However, these changes came with a heavy environmental cost. The cities air and waterways became clogged with pollutants, the cities buildings turned black by the soot of thousands of coal fires.

This project seeks to discover the attitudes and consequences of this degradation of the local environment. What illnesses prevailed amongst children? Were people concerned about the biological death of the Tyne? The Humanities Research institute is delighted to be funding this Challenge Lab project which will be a partnership between The Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums Service and the School of History Classics and Archaeology. Four Newcastle University students will delve into the local archive to uncover the untold stories of Newcastle’s industrial past.

A person reading a book

Reading during the Pandemic

This project presents the results of two surveys, the first conducted in July 2020 and the second, follow-on survey in July 2021, which explored the ways people’s reading habits changed during Covid and the resulting lockdowns. With responses from across the globe, the data looks at the impact of the pandemic on how people read, from the use of electronic and audiobooks, to their choices of reading material and the ways in which they sourced their books. It addresses the ways in which the social nature of reading changed and adapted to the ‘new normal’ of the times of Covid, exploring the consequences of the forced closure of books shops and in particular libraries, and alongside this book clubs and reading groups, and looks at how readers sought new ways to feel part of a larger community of readers.

The survey also shines a light on the reactions of readers to the shift of literary culture, including festivals and events, to online platforms and examines the extent to which they were able to engage with new technology. Finally, and more importantly, however, the analysis of the survey data aims to show how participants used the lens of books and reading to explain, explore and make sense of, their lockdown and pandemic experience in all its diversity.

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences